Okay, I get it. We aren’t even finished with the 2023 free agency yet. But the 2023 free agent class looks stellar and is going to be fun to track, so why not come up with a WAY too early prediction list for the top free agents? I’m going to try and guess where each top player will go, with my reasoning.
Nathan MacKinnon: Colorado Avalanche
I highly, highly doubt MacKinnon leaves Colorado, at least not now, maybe later in his career.
The fact of the matter, though, is that he won’t be taking another massive cheap deal like he was recently on. Realistically, if he took $10M AAV on a max-term deal, that’s already a massive pay cut compared to what he could get on the open market. I could see him pushing for $15M AAV if he did hit the free agent market, for whatever reason.
At the end of the day, though, it just doesn’t make sense for MacKinnon to leave Colorado or for Colorado not to do everything possible to keep him there. It’s a perfect fit for both sides.
Patrick Kane: New York Rangers
Honestly, I feel like money is on the back burner for Patrick Kane at this point, as he’s racked up a total of $115.6M over the course of his career, which is why I could see him taking a cheaper deal to play with a contending team in a market he wants to live in. My opinion? That market is New York City, and the contender is the Rangers.
Kane will have the opportunity to team up with his old linemate and friend Artemi Panarin, and immediately joins a Stanley Cup contending team with other pieces like Igor Shesterkin, Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider.
I think Kane is all but done in Chicago by the end of this season, and could even be moved at the deadline, but if I had to bet on his team by the beginning of the 2023-24 season, I’m going with the Rangers.
David Pastrnak: Boston Bruins
I know, it’s boring to keep these players sticking with their current teams, but I think the Bruins are going to throw everything at Pastrnak, to the point where he genuinely can’t decline it.
Boston knows that they’re losing Patrice Bergeron very soon, and that Brad Marchand will quickly follow. They need to keep all the stars they can, and Pastrnak fits that criteria.
They’ll offer him more than anyone on the open market, and have the flexibility of adding an eighth year, which no one else can do.
Jonathan Huberdeau: Montreal Canadiens
Now let me emphasize that I can very well see Jonathan Huberdeau sticking around in Calgary if they end up performing well and he fits good in the system.
But as of right now, I feel like the opportunity of joining Montreal, who just picked first overall, will likely have another top pick in 2023, and has pieces like Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and Kaiden Guhle for the future, would entice Huberdeau, especially considering he is a Quebec-boy and resides in Montreal in the offseason.
Ryan O’Reilly: St. Louis Blues
Captain of the Blues, loves playing there, and is still a very good player. Nothing to see here, if St. Louis wants him back, he’ll be back.
JT Miller: Washington Capitals
This one is really just a shot in the dark, but the Capitals have expressed interest in Miller in the past, and I believe he wants to go back to America and play there.
I could see him fitting on a lot of Metropolitan division teams, but if I had to pick one, going with the Capitals, who will likely use these last few years to go all-in and win one more with Ovechkin and co.
Max Pacioretty: Dallas Stars
Another shot in the dark, but I could see Max Pacioretty wanting to play for the Stars, and likewise I could see Dallas pursuing a player of Pacioretty’s caliber.
He would add to a team that struggles to score, and help out their power play significantly, and as he’s older, he won’t command a monster term or high cap hit.
Dylan Larkin: Detroit Red Wings
He’s not leaving, come on now.
Bo Horvat: Vancouver Canucks
MacKenzie Weegar: Calgary Flames
Of the two big players that went to Calgary as part of the Matthew Tkachuk trade, I see MacKenzie Weegar as the more likely one to stick around next offseason.
It looks like Weegar will get a big role in Calgary, and potentially even push to be the number-one guy, which he didn’t have a chance to do in South Florida.
Vladimir Tarasenko: Florida Panthers
The Blues have tried to trade Vladimir Tarasenko for some time now, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be back in St. Louis for the 2023-24 season.
He could very well be one of those Russian players that head back to Russia early, but he’s only 30 years old and I still think he has a lot left in the tank despite his injury history.
Florida seems like a good fit, they’ll likely have some more cap space by that point, and I’d imagine he would want to play there too, as it’s a tax-free state with good weather and a team that will be competitive.
Jonathan Toews: Winnipeg Jets
A complete shot in the dark, but I’ve always envisioned Jonathan Toews playing for the Winnipeg Jets at some point in his career, and now that he has fallen off and won’t command as much money, I could see him taking that opportunity to head to Manitoba and help out their centre depth.
Joe Pavelski: Dallas Stars
It’s either Dallas or retirement for Pavelski at this point in my opinion. He’s still very good, so I don’t see him being forced into retirement due to lack of interest around the league, I just think he’ll only want to stay in Dallas.